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1. Collecting the Companies: the material and quantitiative evidence

2. East - West Dialogue: shaping manufacture

3. The Private Trade

4. East India Trade Objects and the Interior

Collecting the Companies: The material and quantitative evidence

Anna Jackson (Keeper, Asian Department,Victoria and Albert Museum, London), ‘Encounters: exhibiting the material culture of trade and exchange’.

In 2004 the V&A staged an exhibition 'Encounters: the meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800' which examined the dynamic period of commercial, cultural and technological exchange that followed Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India. This paper will look back at the exhibition, examining the ideas that informed it, the challenges that accompanied it, and the objects through which we constructed the narrative.

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

Lars Olof Loof (City Museum, Gothenburg), ‘Remains and Collections from the Swedish East India Compnay in the Gothenburg City Museum’.

I would like to introduce our collections, and how we have looked upon this eastern influenced heritage during the last 200 years. The big collections have focused very much upon porcelain (china!), but we could also look upon ivory, silk, cotton, furniture and wall-paper. I still believe that some of these categories are too much forgotten. Connections with the European continent and the British Isles - from a northerna point of view.

Presentation (PDF Document)

Berit Eldvik (Nordiske Museet, Stockholm), ‘Tracing the history of the English East India Company through fabric in the Nordiske Museum’.

I will talk about some Indian hand painted textiles, so called Palampores. They have been in the Nordiska museum since long time without any documentation and without any knowledges of the origin from my predecessors. I will try to give you the history behind them and their connection to the English East India Company through their first believed owners. They are, at least most of them, pieces in the great puzzle of re-exportation and private trade with the Asian goods.

 Paper (Word Document)

 Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

Martine Gosselink (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) ‘Comparing the Competitors: the Portuguese and the Dutch 1500-1700’

 Why, where and how the Dutch East India Company (VOC) took over the position of the Portuguese, and how different attitudes towards religion, diplomacy and trade influenced merchandise and luxury items.

The Rijksmuseum is preparing an exhibition, which envisages dealing with this take over. By showing trade products and luxury items from settlements controlled by the Portuguese and subsequently the Dutch, the ‘Rijks’ will try to reveal differences and similarities between the governing methods of the two colonial powers. By comparing these objects from different periods, we plan to show the differences in social-political structures, the impact for the local inhabitants and the changes in the trading market.

 Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

 Paper (Word Document) 


East - West Dialogue: Shaping Manufacture

Brigitte Nicolas (Head Curator, Musée de la Compagnie des Indes, Lorient) ‘The secret world of East-India-Company imported Indian textiles'

From 1660 onwards, with the aid of the East India Companies, the European import of Indian textiles began to expand rapidly.Historians do not yet study this hugely important commercial development in great detail, whilst the general public remains unaware that cotton textiles formed the largest part of the Companies’ trade.The analysis of travel accounts and the East India Company Archives enables us slowly to unveil the secret world of Indian textiles. In the course of the eighteenth century these spread throughout France, both legally and through channels of smuggling and illicit trade. The Museum of the East India Companies in Lorient has set itself the task of their identification and classification in order to incorporate into its collections the evidence of a phenomenon whose repercussions in the eighteenth century, be it on fashion, on the economy, or on the textile industry, were considerable.

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

Kirsten Toftegaard (Danish Museum of Art & Design, Copenhagen) ‘Encounters in patterns between East and West’

This paper will try to explore some features in patterns for the printed textile made in India in the seventeenth and eighteenth century for export especially to Europe. By looking in pattern books and illustrations of plants and flowers from the period the paper tries to analyze some of the recognizable features in the way the plants are drawn. The paper is based on an ongoing research for a coming exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark in spring 2012 and as such must be considered as work in progress.


Sonia Ashmore (Research Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum, London), ‘How the muslin trade embodied relations between Britain and India’

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

Jessica Harrison-Hall (Curator, Department of Asia, British Museum, London), ‘Distinctions in design transfer’

This short paper distinguishes between and discusses three quite different types of design transfer. Firstly there are those designs from 1520 to 1850 which are commissioned, produced and supplied to a particular identifiable individual customer or regional market. Secondly there are those designs which are ordered for a particular market or consumer but are perhaps considered exotic/attractive by other clients and sold to overlapping markets, often stimulating the rapid production of local copies. Thirdly there are those transfers of design which occur with a time lag of up to one hundred years. The British Museum, V&A Museum and National Museum of China are collaborating to produce an exhibition for the summer of 2012 in Beijing. This show will present ceramics produced for the elite of geographically diverse markets for a general audience that rarely has an opportunity to see such material within China.

Luisa Mengoni (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), ‘Special orders and transmission of designs from Europe to China’

A large number of 'private orders' commissioned in China included porcelain with patterns and shapes taken from or inspired by European sources, such as prints, drawings and designs. This topic has generally been discussed as an aspect of the China trade, but less in connection with the production of similarly decorated ceramics made at factories in the Netherlands, England, France, Germany and Italy.

This contribution aims to locate the commission and export of Chinese porcelain with European designs in the context of a wider phenomenon of consumption and changing production patterns that also affected European ceramic factories during the end of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century. It will explore to what extent new fashion trends and market demands across Europe, combined with the circulation and availability of printed illustrated material and new economies of design work, affected and shaped the nature of 'special orders' made in China and their desirability as commodities to be ordered and sold in the European market.

The Private Trade

Menno Fitski (Curator of East Asian Art, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Kakiemon and the trade in Japanese porcelain’

Kakiemon was a luxurious commodity that occupied a special place within the trade, and the presentation will explore how trade was interlinked with the reception and role of Kakiemon in Europe.

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

Roger Smith (Independent Historian, London), ’The Emperor’s Clocks - presents, tribute or trade?’

My paper will examine myth and reality in the export of elaborate clocks to the East Indies (China and India) in the 18th century.

Patrick Conner (Martyn Gregory, London), ‘Odd Fancys hit well' - Chinese export painting in the 18th century’

The development of Cantonese painting for Western customers, in various genres: natural history subjects, portraits, port views, scenes of tea and porcelain production; changes in technique and in clientele.

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)

East India Trade Objects and the Interior

Kevin Rogers (Architectural historian and Associate Director, Peter Inskip Associates, London), ‘Fabrics connected with the East India Company in London merchant inventories’

In researching the trade in East India Company textiles, 1665-1730, which involves finished goods as well as unmade and related materials, I am addressing two central questions: 1) Does the consumption of East India needlework and printed cottons follow a broader pattern of the value and desire for luxury domestic furnishing textiles? 2) Is there a relationship between the decline of the Levant Company and the increase in the supply of East India raw materials in the textile trade?

Presentation (Powerpoint Presentation)


Kévin Le Doudic (CERHIO CNRS, European University of Brittany, University of South Brittany, Lorient, France), ‘From Artefact to Daily Life Environment: The ‘East India Company Style’, in the Eighteenth Century Pondicherry Trading Post’

Western and Eastern private collections and museums own several instances of pieces of furniture and various artefacts, today identified as the “East India Company Style”. The existing pieces, which testify of the European presence in the Indian Ocean at the Modern Period, are easily recognizable thanks to the mix of very normative Western styles with Asian species of wood or ivory and coral inlays.

The probate inventories of the French who died in the Pondicherry Trading Post, provide reliable information and make possible the study of the artefacts as objets d’art or museum pieces, as well as the wider study of their material and daily life environment. Indeed, the latter is essential to understanding the real function they play in the culture of the French in India, shared between preservation of European references, and opening interest in Asian culture. Therefore, the notion of exoticism is to be re-defined.

(PDF Document) Paper

(PDF Document) Presentation